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December 26, 2011

Matchup Preview: Purdue-Western Michigan

GoldandBlack.com breaks down how Purdue and Western Michigan might match up Tuesday in Detroit.

When Purdue's running ...

This is a matchup Purdue can exploit, as Western Michigan is weak against the run, allowing an average of 216 yards on the ground.

The question is, are the Boilermakers equipped to? Ralph Bolden will be missed; backup Akeem Shavers is a fine fill-in but hasn't carried the ball more than 13 times in a game this year and sat out the regular season finale due to concussion-type symptoms.

That means Purdue may need somebody, whether it's fullback Jared Crank, one of its freshman backs or whoever, to play a prominent role in the running game.

Figure on wide receivers Justin Siller and Antavian Edison to be busy men, both in the rushing and receiving games.

It's imperative Purdue be able to run the football, obviously; it's going to need to keep its defense off the field against Western Michigan's fast-paced, exhausting offense.

Advantage: Purdue (decided)

When Purdue's passing ...

You just have to give the Boilermakers the benefit of the doubt all across the board offensively in this game, but at the same time, you do have to wonder about personnel concerns.

Bolden is a helpful receiving option from the running back position, but also reliable in pass protection.

And the Boilermakers are without two of their top six or so wide receivers with O.J. Ross and Waynelle Gravesande sidelined by academics.

Western Michigan is going to do its best to confuse Purdue's front and manufacture pressure.

As with any game, protecting Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve will be of the utmost importance.

Advantage: Purdue (slight)

When Western Michigan is running ...

Tough call here.

Western Michigan is not a good running team statistically and may altogether abandon it early if it's not working from the get-go.

But Purdue is likely to go nickel early and often, if not exclusively, pulling an extra body from around the line of scrimmage. When the Boilermakers have played as such this season, they've been vulnerable to the run.

If the Broncos can move the ball through the air, the running game could in turn become a threat.

The Boilermakers must be careful not to help Western Michigan to make a weakness into a strength.

Advantage: Purdue (slight)

When Western Michigan is passing ...

Alex Carder and Jordan White are one of the most productive quarterback-wide receiver duos in college football and possess a wealth of experience.

At the same time, Western Michigan's hurry-up style will make it difficult for Purdue to rush the passer. Kawann Short and Co. must do what they can to disrupt Carder's timing and maybe get some bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.

The linebackers will be tested in coverage against tight end and slot receivers, matchups that have often not gone Purdue's way.

Needless to say, Purdue must make Carder earn everything he gets and keep big plays to an absolute minimum.

Advantage: Western Michigan (decided)

Special teams

Purdue's outstanding kickoff return element may be negated by a Western kickoff team that puts the ball in the end zone far more often than not.

The absence of Gravesande is an issue for Purdue, which will now have a first-timer out there fielding punts.

Advantage: Even


Western Michigan finishes offensively, having scored on all but five of their 55 appearances in the red zone. ... Purdue is without four important players it was relying on heavily at the end of the regular season.

For the best Purdue team and recruiting coverage out there, click here.

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